Ground-breaking stem cell research could mean new hope for people who have been left paralysed by a spinal cord injury.
Scientists, led by researchers at the University of California have successfully regrown a rat’s spinal cord tissue using stem cell grafts. Research to date within the field has seen studies into how specialised stem cells might be used to reconnect communication between the body and the brain.
The experiments focused on repairing the corticospinal tract – which is used for communicating nerve signals for movement. By grafting neural stem cells, the researchers were able to resolve a connection between the brain and spine, meaning the injured rat regained movement in its front legs.
Professor Mark Tuszynski, neuroscientist at UCSD, said: “The corticospinal projection is the most important motor system in humans. It has not been successfully regenerated before. Many have tried, many have failed – including us, in previous efforts.
“The new thing here was that we used neural stem cells for the first time to determine whether they, unlike any other cell type tested, would support regeneration.
“And to our surprise, they did.”
The next steps in the research involve safely applying the same techniques in other animals before moving onto humans. For further information, the team’s findings are available to view here.
The spinal cord injury team at Slater and Gordon have extensive experience working with victims and the families of people affected by often life-changing spinal injuries. People that have suffered a spinal cord injury require considerable care and rehabilitation so that they can maintain their health, well-being and independence and avoid potentially expensive and life-threatening complications – something that you can read more on in Slater and Gordon principal lawyer, Tim Deeming’s blog, Spinal Cord Injuries and the Importance of Rehabilitation.
In some cases of spinal cord injuries people are left with little hope of recovery, but with developments in research like these, we may hope for a brighter future.
Martin James is a senior personal injury solicitor at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.